Pop music blasted, comics fluttered through eager hands and ball gowns swept the floors as characters came to life at Long Beach’s 10th Annual Comic Con.
The labyrinthine Long Beach Convention Center was piled high with vendors supplying a range of independent comic books, illustrations, plushies and other fandom essentials.
Attendees of all ages scoured the halls, eyeing the wares of over 400 booths.
Austen Pruett, 28, whose father owns Go Daddy O’s Comic Book Hideout, has been coming to conventions for the past 20 years. His father has been at every single Comic Con in California for the past 25 years.
“A lot has changed about it. It used to be much more oriented around comic book dealing and comic collectors coming to find rare issues,” Pruett said. “Especially at San Diego Comic Con, there’s much more of a focus on big studios having booths.”
Of all the comic conventions that take place in California, Long Beach’s is relatively small, but still draws a crowd of diehard fans.
Long Beach State juniors Kyla Phelps and Kate Watson have been coming to Long Beach Comic Con since they were in high school, when the convention first began.
“[Comic Con] is where all of the nerds can meet,” Phelps said. “We need friends. We’re hermits.” She cosplayed as Wert from Over The Garden Wall, a little-known Cartoon Network mini-series from 2014.
“Ninety percent of our socializing is done online. We come here and everyone is delightfully as weird as we are,” Watson, who was dressed as Peggie from the Captain America movie, said. “You’ll walk by someone and they’ll be like, ‘I know who you are!’”
Attendees were also able to meet celebrities in the industry, as well as experienced illustrators vending their solo work.
Kat Hudson, 33, character designer and illustrator at Warner Bros, was an exhibitor at Long Beach Comic Con, selling enamel pins and prints of her artwork.
“This is my first Comic Con in LA. I’ve done other ones back East,” Hudson said. “I’ve seen so many fun cosplays. I love that. Just meeting new people, meeting other artists in LA.”
When describing the craziest thing she had seen all day, she motioned toward a semi-nude wizard exhibiting erotica in a booth adjacent to her.
“The cosplay thing has gotten a lot more popular,” Pruett said. “It’s all fandoms, not just superhero comics or undergrounds. It used to be a small room with a handful of comic dealers with big boxes of comics.”
Nowadays, comic conventions take place all across the country and draw crowds from all over the world, thus San Diego’s title “Comic Con International.”
Panel discussions covered topics such as “Expanding ‘Cosplay is Not Consent’” and “From Punching Nazis to… Not Punching Nazis?” before opening up the floor for the annual Cosplay Contest. Many of the topics touched on the comic industry and fandom culture as a whole.
“With a comic or a graphic novel, you’re able to experience the art of storytelling in a different way,” Pruett said. “It’s more digestible for people who have a hard time sticking to a whole novel. A lot of times the art is the best part, you get to look at something beautiful while you’re reading.”